Red Teaming: Objectives and Methods


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Increasing digitization brings with it a host of opportunities for companies, but also not inconsiderable risks. When it comes to security in particular, it is important to always be up to date with the latest technology and to be equipped against all potential threats. The Smart Factory needs security! In order to verify the full functionality of security measures, penetration tests are regularly carried out in practice, which put far more than just a server or a system to the test. These simulated cyber-attacks are known as Red Teaming Assessments. During this process, selected systems and networks are consistently checked for vulnerabilities. This makes perfect sense, because no software or conventional standard procedures can test a system in the same way as a "real" attack.

Red Teaming

What is a Red Team?

The primary goal of Red Teaming is to find potential vulnerabilities in network and server security, endpoint security, but also employee behavior. A Red Team consists of several people with expertise in different areas of IT security. As a rule, a team includes, for example, system administrators, network specialists, programmers and not infrequently also (former) hackers, who contribute their experience.

On the other side sit the IT specialists of the Blue Team, who are supposed to ensure the security of the system within the framework of more classic activities. Based on the success or failure of the Red Team's attacks, they are relentlessly shown weak points and are able to protect themselves against real attacks. The Red Teaming method is therefore only suitable to a limited extent for (small) companies without an internal IT department or Blue Team. The goal of a penetration test carried out by Red Teams is, in the first step, to eliminate obvious vulnerabilities and later to find out how the Blue Team reacts to attacks with targeted, large-scale attacks. To obtain reliable and meaningful information in this regard, it is essential that the two teams act completely independently of each other and that the Blue Team is not informed. This is the only way to determine how effective the measures are and how employees are behaving. For example, are the safety requirements being adhered to?

Attack is the Best Defense

Even if company employees are not informed, defined framework conditions apply to the tests. The attack targets can be narrowed down to individual areas, and certain groups of people or defined systems can be excluded. The fewer restrictions there are here, the more meaningful the result is, of course. The penetration test must also not lead to any real damage. Rather, the aim is to gain access to specific systems and information or to infiltrate potentially harmful software. For their test, the Red Team has a wide range of options at its disposal. These range from phishing to network-level attacks and unauthorized network access to the introduction of (potentially) malicious software. The use of malware and backdoors and the targeted circumvention of access controls and barriers are also common. But social engineeringcan also be a possibility. This can be used to check how vulnerable employees are. After the attack, a complete overview of the identified security vulnerabilities and corresponding recommendations for action are provided. Over time, this creates a strong bulwark against external attacks.

Act before it's too Late

Good software solutions and resources for facility security are important. However, a company's IT security depends on more, such as the behavior of employees when handling information and data. The threat of cybercrime is real, and the possibilities for an attack are many. Ultimately, any company, any software landscape, can be hacked - it's just a matter of how much effort the attackers have to put in. Red Teaming is effective as a method to best protect against external threats. Security gaps and attack points become visible thanks to realistic scenarios and enable the effective expansion of defense strategies. If the effort required by the attackers becomes too high, the attack is no longer worthwhile. This must be precisely the overriding goal of Red Teaming. Of course, this form of threat prevention is sometimes associated with high costs. However, these costs are negligible compared to the damage that can be caused to a company by successful hacker attacks. Several concepts can be found here.

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